A buyer persona represents your typical customer who stands for an entire segment of your customer base and answers the question: ‘who are my customers and what motivates them?’ Using buyer personas enables you to focus your efforts on attracting and converting the right people or companies. Because who wants to put money and effort into a target group that will never buy your product or service? Nobody. Personas don’t just help you focus on the right people: they also help create a valuable relationship.
The original inventor of buyer personas, Tony Zambito, defines personas as: “research-based archetypes of:
- who customers are,
- what they are trying to achieve,
- what goals their behaviour stimulates,
- how they think,
- how they buy,
- and why they make purchasing decisions.”
Focus on buyer personas in every phase of the purchasing process and in all marketing activities: at strategic level, when determining the type of content, when deciding on an angle, the tone of voice, the choice of channel, everything. After all, personas help you stay consistent and communicate on the same wavelength as your customers or potential customers. And they ensure that the whole team and company are speaking the same language.
Personas make it easy to focus on the customer in your communication. This is the only way of marketing your solution to the right person in the right way at the right time. The trick is to succeed in developing the right content for each persona later on and getting that persona to find it. But how do you create archetypes of this kind that represent all your customers? Use these 5 steps.
STEP 1: Who are my customers?
As a first step, it is important to determine who your customers are. Map out who are the initiators and decision-makers in purchasing your product or service. Do you have contact with the marketing or IT department but they need C-level to give the go-ahead? That means two different types of person and two different types of online behaviour. So you need to develop several personas, with each persona reflecting one customer segment. Interview two or three customers for each persona to get a representative idea of who they are. But don’t stop there.
Interview prospects and former customers as well. You might even think about your biggest competitor’s customers and ‘negative’ personas: who would you rather not have as your customer?
Tip: why not put out a call on LinkedIn, for example, to find people who qualify. Sharing is caring :).
STEP 2: Determine the channel
Now you know which profiles the buyer personas are going to represent, it is time to come up with the questions and make the appointments. But how are you going to ask your questions? Verbally? And face-to-face or on the phone? Or using an online form? Have a good think about how much time and effort your personas are prepared to put into this. Maybe you have a meeting with your customer soon and it will be easy to run through all the questions in the afternoon over a cup of coffee. But if your persona has a jam-packed diary, you would do better to send a form so that they can answer whenever they want to. These are the three most frequently used methods:
- Face-to-face conversation
- Verbal telephone conversation
- Survey: the free tool Google Forms is ideal for this. Ease of use is a big benefit!
Even if in-depth verbal interviews or surveys are the most frequently-used methods for developing buyer personas in marketing, there are yet other ways of gaining more information:
- Ask the sales team: test the waters with colleagues and find out what are the most frequently occurring problems and opportunities, how leads get their information, etc.
- Study SEO: look at Google Analytics, under ‘audience’. That enables you to see the type of profiles that visit the website.
- Look at existing content: analyse the statistics for your website and social media channels. What content scores highly in terms of clicks and engagement, and above all, why? What solutions do the best-scoring pages focus on?
- Think about your download or registration forms: create forms in a way that will enable you to find out more about your buyer personas. Job title, for example, can provide important information.
- Get ideas from competitors: look at the various channels that your competitors use. What do they talk about and in what ways? What works and what doesn’t?
STEP 3: Ask the questions
And then it’s time for the questions… It is only by asking the right questions that you can get the right information. And getting right information is the best way to develop highly representative buyer personas who can advance your marketing efforts. These are the themes and questions that you definitely need to include:
- Which department do you work in?
- What is your job title?
- What does your job involve?
- How is your job evaluated? (Leads generated, revenue generated, team productivity)
- What skills do you need for this?
- Whom do you report to?
- Who reports to you?
- What are your responsibilities?
- When are you successful in your job?
- What are your internal challenges?
- How do you deal with those internal challenges?
- What internal obstacles do you encounter?
- What are your external challenges?
- How do you deal with those external challenges?
- What external obstacles do you encounter?
- To what extent do you feel supported by your customers (and why)?
- To what extent do you feel supported by your colleagues (and why)?
- To what extent do you feel supported by your management (and why)?
- How do you prefer to communicate with people external to the company (customers, suppliers etc.)?
- How do you prefer to communicate with your colleagues?
- How do you prefer to communicate with your management?
- How do you prefer to be informed about insights?
- Which channels do you use to do research? Why?
- What type of content has already persuaded you to buy something in the past?
- First name
- E-mail address
- Home address
- Company & industry
STEP 4: Contact and make arrangements
It is clear who you want to interview, what channel you are going to use and what you are going to ask. Now it is important to convince your candidates to participate. Here are a few tips:
- Explain that your conversation is not a sales talk: this is important, especially with people who are not your customers. Be clear that you want to get to know them better and that the conversation will only be about the interviewee.
- Make things as easy as possible for the interviewee so it’s practically impossible to say ‘no’ : adapt your schedule to suit theirs, be flexible, send an invite (using iCal or Outlook) and be sure to send a reminder as well.
- Use incentives: an incentive gives the interviewee a reason to take part, i.e. to say ‘yes’. Keep it simple: most people are happy with a voucher for amazon.com, for example.
STEP 5: Process the answers, draw conclusions and put them together to create an outline
Have all the interviewees answered all the questions? If so, now is the time to process their answers and start creating and visualising your personas. A good buyer persona might look like this, for example:
A few tips:
- When you start visualising personas, use real quotes from the interviews. This will enable you to learn something about their tone of voice and mindset as well.
- Give the persona a name. That way you won’t have to keep saying “how are our buyer personas going to react” but rather something like “what will be Emma’s reaction?” This way, everyone knows right away which persona (and thus which customer segment) you are talking about.
What if you aren’t very creative or don’t have much time? Use the free tool by Hubspot: MakeMyPersona.
Why not create a buyer journey at the same time, based on the buyer personas:
- What questions do the initiator and decision-maker have, and at which phase?
- the awareness stage: put the focus on a problem here
- the consideration stage: emphasise the solution here
- the decision stage: this is where you can talk about the product or service
- What type of content can you use to respond to this?
- Which channels are you going to use to generate impact?